As a large-format photographer, I am always looking for film bargains. I have read in various places that relatively speaking, film isn’t much more expensive today than it was in the 1950s. Be that as it may, I still find it costly. Enter oddball films.
I am not alone in experimenting with odd films. Lots of people shoot x-ray for instance. My preference is for duplicating film, specifically the aerographic type. Kodak made quite a few, some to order for the client. I happened on a 9.5″ x 500′ roll of Kodak 2421 and after several years of experimenting I’m finally getting some predictable results.
Duplicating film is orthochromatic so that it can be used under red darkroom light. It is also very slow and is designed to be developed in printing chemicals. I have used as little as 1 minute in Ansco 130 for this film (though I don’t recommend it because ultra rapid development results in pinholes in the emulsion).
Kodak 2421 rated at 5. 8×10. Busch 11″ lens. 3 sec @f/6.8
Orthochromatic emulsions have been around for a long long time. The distinctive look of Civil War portraits are due in part to the orthochromatic nature of the emulsions used in the 1860s. Couple the film with an old brass lens and you get a modern version of those portraits. You can get similar results, but without the convenience of darkroom development, by using a Cyan filter on ordinary film.
Blue light varies throughout the day. If you’re shooting around noon, the film will behave like a panchromatic film but be nearly grainless. Ortho film isn’t sensitive to red light which means reds are darker and blues lighter. I have found that ortho films marketed by Adox and the like are not nearly as pronounced in effect as duplicating film. I would imagine this is to make the film more usable in a variety of shooting conditions. In the morning and afternoon I meter through a blue filter to mimic the film emulsion.
This one is also Kodak 2421. Aero Ektar 178mm lens. 5×7 film. 1.5 sec @ f/11
Generally, I use D-76 1:1 and tray develop under red light in the darkroom. I agitate gently and continuously for the first minute, then 10 seconds each subsequent minute. For N development, I use 7.5 minutes @ 70 degrees F.
Next month I have my second article coming out in View Camera Magazine.
The article features the work of my pal Laura Campbell.
Seven–yes 7–beautiful desert images displaying her love of both that harsh environment and her signature tonal range. I was honored that she asked me to write it and we had a good time collaborating.
I will have another article in View Camera Magazine next month featuring my pal Laura Campbell. She entrusted me with writing about her life, a short essay accompanying her magnificent landscapes. She did approve the text before it went to press so all responsibility is hers. Just sayin.
Don’t expect it to be too serious. That isn’t Laura’s style. The pictures are serious enough, but the words aren’t. Artist’s statements can be stuffy, self-righteous, and dull. My article is probably all of those, as well as having some marginally amusing bits.
Sometimes it’s the weather that keeps me indoors and away from shooting with a big camera, but usually it’s more complicated than that. I’m sitting here on my bed in my parents’ house in France vacillating between complete apathy and frenzied activity. I was out the other day in sub-freezing temperatures to shoot the ice and snow because of their novelty and I was shooting in a heated studio yesterday because I had a model. In between I look outside at the rain and overcast skies and the winter landscape and I cannot gather the energy to shoot in one of the most meaningful places on earth (to me). I have schlepped my camera 6000 miles to shoot here and I don’t. Actually, that’s an untruth: I did not come here to shoot, I came to say goodbye to my father who passed away before I arrived. Maybe that has something to do with it.
I am underwhelmed by what I brought back from the Death Valley meetup. Ironically, the only good shots are either not of Death Valley, or exist on roll film rather than sheet. There are a couple of the dunes which would have had possibilities had I not under-developed them.
I have always thought of myself less of a landscape photographer than as a….don’t really know what kind. Portraitist? Night photographer? Dabbler? All I can say is that I feel pretty weak about landscapes, especially landscapes like Death Valley that are a challenge to shoot.
I actually started to cry a couple of times when I looked on the ground glass. The landscape is overwhelming and I was shooting outside all my preferences. This may explain why I didn’t get much. I was not inspired, confident, or happy with what I saw–as a photographer, that is. As a tourist, it was beautiful.
I am going back in Feb and I am going to concentrate on the two places that actually inspired me–the dunes and Badwater. Both of these place held features that hold my interest because they are best at sunrise (dunes) and sunset (Badwater), the two times of day that I tend to shoot landscapes, if I must. And I will be more precise in the darkroom.
Got back last Thursday from a swell meetup in Death Valley. Attendees were Laura Campbell, Bob Farr, David Jade, Lloyd Greene, and Michael Snively. I shot 10 sheets of 8×10, 16 sheets of 4×5, and 3 rolls of 120 film. Results are spotty. The 8x10s are yawners for the most part, the roll film pretty nice, and the 4x5s as yet unknown.
The weather was nice when the wind wasn’t blowing the cameras over. 70s during the day, 50s at night. Amazing stars at night, bare and mostly treeless vistas in the daytime. Only one of the 9 days passed without my taking a picture.
I am hoping to get back there in Feb with a different group of large format friends. This time I won’t be taking my Deardorff (what a pain in the ass it turned out to be) and I may shoot 5×7 rather than 8×10.
Soon on the sale block: 8×10 camera (I have a nicer one I’m keeping), some lenses, compendium hood, sanity.
Next week I will have pieces in two local shows. ‘Memorial’ will be shown at Gallery Route One in Point Reyes Station, CA as part of the West Marin Review exhibition. The opening will be Oct 7. The other is In Gualala, CA. I have 3 pieces in a show called ‘A Little Night Music’. The opening for that event is Oct 5, 5pm at the Gualala Arts Center.
October 13-14 is San Francisco Open Studios at Fort Mason. Hours are 11-6. The reception for that is October 12, 6-9 pm. I’ll be showing some of the fabulous Ilfochromes printed for me by Frank Green of The Lab Ciba in Burbank CA. I picked up some claryl glass for them that allows the beauty of the paper to show, very close in appearance to no glass at all.
The online version of my article is out, accompanied by photos taken by all 6 women who comprised the June 2012 Women and Their Big Cameras Eastern Sierra meetup. (Print version is in the post.) We met at the home of Laura Campbell, founder of the group, in beautiful Lone Pine, CA and the article is about our adventures. I saw the proof of the article and Laura pointed out, much to my horror, that I had submitted the wrong–very bad–scan instead of the fantastic one done by Greg Lockrey. Thank you Steve for allowing me to fix the error by sending you the correct one. Photos by Laura Campbell, Jeanne Wells, Jackie Stoken, Susan Huber, Judy Sherrod, and myself.
In June I went to the eastern Sierra to shoot with a group of large format wielding women. It was great and I learned lots. One of the things I learned was the lith-printing process and I have been putting it into practice with a remarkable success rate. It is the perfect process for the less-than-stellar darkroom technicians such as myself. I have been using Moersch lith chemicals and Fomabrom classic paper. Depending on how much solution D (bromide) you put in the developer, the paper gives a lovely brown to orange. Not so fond of the oranges, but put the paper in a weak selenium solution for just a few seconds and you’re back to a warm brown. I will have several of these prints on display and for sale at San Francisco Open Studios, Oct 13-14, 2012
Well, I have an answer to the question I posed the other day regarding what wins the battle between star trails and fog. The star trails. I can tell that the fog rolled in about 40 minutes into the shot, judging by their length. It’s too bad that the transparency is worthless though. When you shoot large format in the dead of night it is difficult to see exactly what is on the ground glass. Thus I did not see that the fence wires I thought I had put my lens between were in fact making an impression on my film. Plus I learned that it really is possible to overexpose at night; one hour was actually too long.